One of the things you learn as a lawyer is that some cross examinations need to be planned.
Mibbee it’s because I’ve been doing this for a long time but it doesn’t seem to me to be difficult.
You also need to get to make sure the initial premises to the question are agreed with the witness but then get to the pay off answer (or refusal to answer) that you are seeking as quickly as possible. You also need to ask closed questions in a way that prevents a different question being answered or a clarification being sought to distract attention from the fact the question has not been answered.
So, with that in mind here are a couple of more effective questions that our televisual interrogators might want to put to SNP spokesmen over the next few days during which, I confidently predict, the real territory of dispute will appear. For the avoidance of doubt, that will not be when the Referendum happens, or whether the electoral commission is involved, or (most ludicrously) whether 16 year olds should vote. The real issue will be whether there should be more than one question.
Now, before moving on here, I just want to remind some of the more naive souls who are circling this issue of one very important fact. The SNP don’t believe in Devolution, Max or otherwise. The SNP believe in Independence. Everything they do is aimed at that objective. That’s why they didn’t participate in either the Constitutional Convention or the Calman Commission.
On any view, you would think, giving people a third choice between Independence and the status quo would reduce the chance of Independence triumphing. In betting terms, the odds go from evens to 2-1 against but in reality, if that became the real choice, the natural inclination to “compromise”would increase the odds against by a much larger margin. It is therefore initially unclear as to why any Party seeking to win an Independence Referendum would seek to ask such a question.
There is a simple answer to that. They don’t, or at least they don’t in a meaningful way.
So, setting aside my other observations about whether the real aim is to create a legal quagmire preventing a Referendum happening at all, what else might the SNP want to achieve by encouraging the development of a Devo-Max scheme? Let us be in no doubt, it is not Devo-Max.
I would like to make of unchallengeable propositions.
1. If it’s a scheme the SNP don’t like it won’t appear at all. That’s not speculation, that’s what has happened to Calman. It will only appear at all if the SNP can vote yes/yes.
2. If it’s a scheme acceptable to Holyrood and Westminster, you don’t need a Referendum. What would we be voting on?
3. Any scheme that involves variable corporate taxes or excise duties across open boundaries is incompatible with a unitary state and will therefore never be acceptable to Westminster.
4. You can’t have a unilateral declaration of devolution. So, unlike Independence, what’s the point of voting for it?
5. If there is a second question, the SNP will encourage a Yes/Yes but, perfectly reasonably, point out that only a Yes to Independence gets a result.
6. A second question will prevent a united No Campaign.
7. A yes/no vote on a scheme unacceptable to Westminster achieves nothing and resolves nothing.
8. There is no mention at all of a second question in the SNP Manifesto.
So, back to the start. Here’s the simple line of questioning the Nats can’t answer.
Q: Are you confident Scotland will vote for Independence?
A: (presumably) Yes
Q: Why then might you ask a second question
A: Because there is a demand etc etc
Q: But you remain confident that people will vote for Independence?
A: (presumably) Yes
Q: So, what’s the purpose to the second question?
Repeat as required.
As Sheriff Montgomery is wont to say to incompetent lawyers “It’s not rocket science.”
Tomorrow, some thoughts on the demography of Scotland and a bit more about why the Nats will get gubbed if they ever actually have a straight vote. Here's a taster from an earlier blog